Saturday, August 4, 2018

Panel: Culture, Identity, and Writing: Where do They Meet? Dashka Slater

Dashka Slater is the award-winning author of books for kids and teens. Her 2017 young adult true crime narrative, The 57 Bus, was a YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist, an LA Times Book Award Finalist and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Young Adult Book of the Year.

Panel moderated by Arthur Levine.

Was there a time during the writing that you felt the joyful intersection of culture, identity, and the work at hand?

The 57 Bus is about two people outside of Dashka's identity and it's not a joyful story, but it was connected to her identity as an Oaklander, a place that has been her long-time home. She felt deeply tied to the story because it was about her community which gave her a deep sense of connection. She knew it so well because it was part of her life.

Dashka comments on the feeling of looking in from the outside. Dashka had an oddball schooling without formal instruction so she had a feeling of not being a "real kid" because she didn't have those touch stones that most kids have related to what it means to be a kid. She would study Archie comic books to get a sense of real school and what "normal" people do. That sense of wanting to understand other people is the drive of being a writer. 

Do you ever feel like you need to sensor a part of yourself? 

The question of authenticity resonates with Dashka being a part of a very assimilated Jewish family. Writing the experience then also became about reclaiming an identity that had been shed in order to survive.

How do the non-visible aspects of culture and identity interact with the more visible ones? 

Having just written a story outside her idenity, Dashka found the struggle in separating what she knew from what she thought she know. She created many layers of checking to be sure she was seeing clearly, or at least as clearly as she could.

As we move forward, what do you want to see? What book do you want? 

Dashka says it's weird, but she's craving more utopian-esque fiction. "I know what I don't want. I want someone to show me the new ways."

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